State prosecutors have defended the police’s failure to videotape a raid in which a pistol and three bullets were discovered in the ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim’s apartment.
The retired colonel was sentenced to 11 years in jail on weapons smuggling charges. He maintains he was framed by rogue police officers, and has taken up the police’s failure to follow standard operating procedures as a key argument in an ongoing appeal at the High Court.
But public prosecutor Adam Arif today said that the police can “change the standard operating procedure whenever they want to.”
“The criminal court’s judgment that said police are not required to follow the standard operation procedure is lawful. These procedures set up by the police are subject to change at any time. These procedures are always changing,” he said.
Police officers, who had provided anonymous testimony at the criminal court, admitted they did not videotape the raid as required, and provided conflicting testimony on how and when mandatory photographs were taken.
Nazim also claims officers did not provide him with a copy of the search warrant when SWAT officers first entered his house.
His lawyers have alleged several lapses in due process, including the criminal court’s refusal to call defence witnesses and failure to allow Nazim to mount a proper defense.
The ex-defence minister maintains that the weapons were planted on the orders of tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb after the pair fell-out over Adeeb’s alleged use of SWAT officers to commit criminal activities. Adeeb has denied the claims.
Nazim’s lawyers told the High Court yesterday that the criminal court had blocked him from mounting a proper defense by refusing to call defence witnesses and blocking defence lawyers from cross-examining state witnesses.
They have also alleged state prosecutors coached witnesses, and said discrepancies in police testimony indicate that police officers had lied under oath.
Responding to Nazim’s arguments today, Arif denied irregularities including that of witness coaching, and insisted that Nazim was allowed to defend himself.
“Interviewing witnesses” before court appearances are done in many democratic countries, Arif said.
He admitted to discrepancies in witness statements, but said the contradictions were not serious enough to undermine the whole case.
“The state provided enough evidence which proved the case at the lower court. We proved that weapons were found at his house. If Nazim cannot prove how the weapons came to be there then it can either be that he smuggled the weapons or made the weapons,” Arif said.
At the criminal court, Nazim had attempted to argue that the 9mm Browning pistol had belonged to a Special Protection Group Corporal, who had lost it at Shangri-La resort in 2014. When the military promptly dismissed the claim, the criminal court refused to call defence witnesses.
The court also refused to call witnesses to testify to the fall-out between Nazim and Adeeb, and to prove the police’s SWAT team had committed criminal offences before.
Arif today said the criminal court is authorized to bar some witnesses if they appear to be irrelevant, and said the judges had blocked Nazim’s lawyers from cross-examining state witnesses because their questions had “strayed from the subject.”
Along with the weapons, police said they had discovered a pen drive containing documents detailing a plot to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen. Nazim’s lawyers have also questioned the validity of the documents.
Judges Abdul Ganee, Abdulla Hameed, Shuaib Hussain Zakariyya, Abbas Shareef and Abdul Rauf Ibrahim are overseeing Nazim’s appeal.
Two judges who oversaw Nazim’s trial, Abdulla Didi and Sujau Usman, were promoted to the High Court on June 8.
Nazim’s trial also coincided with a terrorism trial against ex-president Mohamed Nasheed. The opposition leader was sentenced to 13 years in jail on March 13.
He was tried by the same three judges who oversaw Nazim’s trial.
The pair’s imprisonment has triggered a political crisis with daily protests from February through May, two mass demonstrations and hundreds of arrests.
Foreign governments, international organizations including the UN, and civil society groups have criticised the trials for apparent lack of due process. President Yameen, however, insists he has no constitutional authority to release the pair and says they must exhaust all appeal processes.
Nasheed’s lawyers were blocked from filing an appeal when the criminal court failed to issue the required case documents within a shortened 10-day appeal period.
The former president was temporarily transferred to house arrest yesterday.